Photography and Anthropology: two passions in balance

From Iceland to Berlin: After completing a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and graduating from the Photography School in Reykjavik, Icelandic photographer and anthropologist Helga Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir is now studying the Distance Learning program M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology. In the interview she told us more about her current creative projects as well as her studies at HMKW.

After a bachelor's degree in Anthropology and a degree from the Photography School in Reykjavik, Helga Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir is now studying at HMKW Berlin.

After a bachelor's degree in Anthropology and a degree from the Photography School in Reykjavik, Helga Laufey Ásgeirsdóttir is now studying at HMKW Berlin.

You are a photographer from Iceland who also makes short films. That sounds pretty amazing! Tell us more about your recent projects!

I have made two short films this year for school. Both of them are machinimas, but that means that the film is made from screen recordings. The first one I made was about misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19. I did an interview online with a random stranger through the website and it turned out he had some radical views about how and why the corona virus came to be. It was a very interesting interview and I'm very happy with my film.

What are you working on at the moment? And what made you want to make a go for it?

I'm in my third semester in this program so most of my time these days goes to studying. I am also trying to envision how my master's project will be. I want to do something that relates to mental health. My brother is bi-polar and that has made a huge impact on my life since 2010, so I really want to work with that subject even though it scares me a bit to do it.

Could you tell us a bit about how you became a photographer/filmmaker? When did you start filmmaking/taking photographs?

I have always loved taking photographs. I used to have a film camera on me all the time to take pictures of my surroundings. Mostly they were pictures of my friends here and there. I was never sure if I wanted to pursue it as a career however. Then when I was writing my BA thesis in Anthropology I decided to sign up for a short seminar in photography where I learned how to shoot, develop and print in a dark room. There I met a girl who wanted to apply for the Photography School in Reykjavik and I ended up applying with her.


How do you get inspired? And what inspires you the most?

When I look for inspiration I might go online, flip through books or magazines or talk to friends. It really varies. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to do, but other times I might need a jumpstart. What inspires me the most are people who are true to themselves, know what they want and go out and get it. I believe if you put in the work it pays off.

What was the biggest challenge in your work as a photographer/filmmaker so far?

In 2017 I did a project for photography school about my brother. He was having a manic episode and I tried to capture him and the effects it made on those around him. I ended up being too timid to do so. I finished the project and I got a great grade but I know I could have done it so much better. A part of me was too afraid of facing it, and the other part didn't want to exploit him because even though he gave me his permission to photograph him he wasn't really in his right mind.

Why did you decide to study “M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology”?

I came to Berlin in the summer of 2012 with some friends. Here we met up with a friend of mine who lived here at the time. She was actually here studying in this program at Freie Universität. She told me about it and I became very fascinated because I had just enrolled into the Anthropology BA program at the University of Iceland and was about to start in a month. I had also always loved photography so here was a way to combine the two. Therefore, this program was always in the back of my mind while I did my other studies. Then when I really started thinking about it, after I graduated in photography, I decided to apply.


In your opinion, from which experiences/courses/projects during your studies will you benefit the most in your future career?

I think it was very good to get a bit of hands-on learning during the In-house Workshops, like Mark Dölling's class where we were taught about the camera and how to use it along with different gadgets and lighting. I also like being introduced to different ways of filmmaking, like for example making a machinima. Now I am very excited to start my Master's project and I think it will benefit me quite a lot to work on something that is so dear to me, while having access to a mentor who can guide me through.

What do you like the most about your studies/the study program in general?

I think the field of Visual and Media Anthropology is very interesting and there is so much within it that really catches my attention. It's quite a wide field so the possibilities are endless, which I like. Anthropology really widens your horizon when it comes to life, and being able to bring that visually to people is very appealing. And it doesn't hurt that I'm very lucky with my fellow G13 students.

What are your plans for the future?

When I know, I'll tell you haha.

Thanks for the interview. All the best for the future!